Voters Don't Want to Pay for Sports Stadiums Anymore

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Voting populaces abroad and at home are growing wary of dishing out taxpayer funding for major sports events and stadiums, with three recent examples bucking a long-term trend.

As the number of abandoned Olympic stadiums continues to grow — and municipal budgets continuing to be stretched thin — voters have begun to realize the costs of building lavish stadiums almost always fail to pay off economically. The past week brought with it several stories about the growing negativity toward dishing out these big dollars.

Winter Olympics 2022

Across Europe, citizens have outright rejected several referendums on whether to host the 2022 Olympics. Krakow, Poland, withdrew its bid to host on Monday after 70 percent of voters opposed the plan to submit a bid. That comes not long after Stockholm's ruling party withdrew funding plans to host the Winter Olympics. Voters in Munich and St. Moritz, Switzerland also rejected the idea by public referendum within the last year, according to Deadspin. Lviv, Ukraine put their bid on hold as well.

The only states left still bidding on the Olympics are, not coincidentally, in places without strong public speech: Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing, China. "Increasingly, the only governments excited about hosting these events are the ones that don’t have to worry about public opinion," Slate's Joshua Keating writes.

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L.A. football stadium

Los Angeles, the U.S.'s second-largest market, has been without an NFL team for almost 20 years now, and NFL teams in smaller markets have consistently used the threat of moving to Los Angeles in order to spur public funds for stadiums. But a move to L.A. isn't in the cards, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News writes, because everyone knows the city cannot get public funding for a new state-of-the-art football stadium.

The NFL knows California voters won’t give a nickel to publicly finance a stadium. The state already has two other NFL teams with outdated homes. The NFL would be hard-pressed to make California a four-team state when there’s no chance for stadium handouts there.

That opposition to funding new stadiums has been consistent in California, as the Rams and Raiders both moved away from Los Angeles 20 years ago because of the degrading quality of the stadiums. (And the Raiders are still playing in a relic in Oakland.) In two decades, that city's public inflexibility to funding NFL stadiums hasn't changed. Though plans for several potential new stadiums have been lobbed in recent years, none will receive public funding.

The Atlanta Braves' backdoor dealing

Last year, the Braves surprised everyone by announcing a move to nearby Cobb County, which is using $300 million of public funds to build the team a new suburban stadium. In a tone-deaf press conference last week, Braves President John Schuerholz explained that the deal had to be kept secret because if citizens knew what was happening, they would have opposed it. And that would have been totally unacceptable.

"It didn't leak out. If it had leaked out, this deal would not have gotten done," Schuerholz said, highlighted by Deadspin"If it had gotten out, more people would have started taking the position of, 'We don't want that to happen. We want to see how viable this was going to be.'" Thankfully for Schuerholz, the deal was kept under wraps until it had already been agreed upon by the county and the team. That allowed the Braves to get the money they needed for the stadium without inciting any opposition. If it had been put to a public vote, the result likely would not have been favorable to the team.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.